Burnley bounce straight back with Premier League promotion
Jamie Clark, Sports Editor | May 2, 2016
Burnley secured an immediate promotion back into the Premier League with a 1-0 home win over QPR – a team that dropped out of England’s top-flight alongside them.
Sam Vokes’ set-piece header on the hour mark confirmed the Turf Moor team bounced straight back, because promotion rivals Middlesbrough and Brighton and Hove Albion meet at the Riverside on the final day of the regular Championship season.
Who will join Clarets automatically?
That contest is now a winner-takes-all match, with the loser consigned to the play-offs. Boro can also end their seven-year wait to return to the Premier League with a home draw against the Seagulls.
Facing relegated Charlton Athletic in their last fixture, Burnley are overwhelming odds-on 1/8 favourites with Coral to lift the Championship title.
Sean Dyche has a second promotion on his CV now and a growing reputation, having taken a modest club like the Clarets up among the English elite again. Linked with vacancies at Aston Villa and Sunderland, it has proven the right decision for the manager to remain in east Lancashire.
Close knit team
Burnley had four players named in the PFA’s Championship Team of the Year; goalie Tom Heaton, who kept a 19th league clean sheet of the campaign; set-piece threat centre back Michael Keane; midfielder Joey Barton; and second tier top scorer Andre Gray.
Bringing in now veteran engine room operator Barton, whose bad boy reputation and troubled times on and off field precede him, caused some to question Dyche’s judgment in some quarters, but he has proved an astute and shrew signing on a free.
Speaking of money, the Clarets’ coffers are in rude health after record profits were announced at Turf Moor earlier this spring.
Dyche should have some money to spend, and there is already the feeling that Burnley looked better-equipped than two years ago to stay up. All this having suffered some relatively high-profile departures is quite remarkable.
The Clarets are a team that feel the sale of players keenly, but in Gray they have secured a replacement for Vokes’ erstwhile strike partner Danny Ings. Losing right back and proven Championship performer Kieran Trippier to Tottenham is barely noticeable either.
Vokes vindicated by decisive strike
In a way it was fitting Wales target man Vokes, cruelly denied an active part in promotions celebrations two years ago and a proper crack at the Premier League by a serious knee injury, netted the goal that confirmed Burnley were back in the big time.
A tense affair against the Hoops, who have by contrast undergone radical changes both on the pitch and in the dugout since last term’s top-flight campaign, was decided by one moment.
Following a pretty drab first-half, leading marksman Gray flashed wide from a tight and difficult angle, but Clarets centre forward Vokes rose highest on the hour to guide David Jones’ near post free-kick into the far corner.
Alejandro Faurlin, once a bone of contention in a QPR promotion, gave the Turf Moor faithful a nervy moment when he hit the post for the visitors, but Burnley hung on for a sweet victory.